There’s no shortage of films that display characters and actions with morally repugnant or indifferent attitudes – and whether or not the audience chooses to identify or judge them in a certain way is completely up to them. Is seeing a film like this immoral? Not really. That said, does this question change when the film offends an entire country? Most recently this has been seen in the reaction to The Interview, and James Franco and Seth Rogen’s depiction of North Korea has received a huge fallout and critical response on both sides of the argument. That said, in sparking debate, Franco and Rogen’s film has overshadowed the release of Exodus: Gods and Kings, a film that has caused far greater offence to the point of being banned in the entire region it depicts. It’s also a film where its director acknowledged he selected his cast in an attempt to draw big numbers to the cinemas despite the absolute dissonance with reality that it clearly evokes. Ridley Scott’s latest movie prioritises profit in a way that whitewashes a nation, insults with weak and cliché plot lines and characterisations and simply fails to move beyond being an awfully boring and redundant film beyond all of this. Exodus: Gods and Kings isn’t simply a bad film, it’s one that actively demands a thinking audience avoid watching it.
The plot line of Exodus: Gods and Kings is the done and dusted tale of the Book of Exodus. Despite this, Scott’s film needlessly reanimates a corpse with frillier effects, a bigger budget, and a cast that entirely betrays the story it tells, alongside the people and regions it depicts. The story does nothing new, because it’s been told better before. The effects feel cheap and used for the sake of being used – reiterating the running trend amongst most of Scott’s recent work. It uses technology but it does nothing with it. It tells the story of Exodus but it does nothing with it.
On top of a fundamentally uninspired premise and a complete misunderstanding of cinematography, Scott whitewashes the film that results in a finished product that resembles absolutely nothing remotely close to reality. From his casting of Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul to Ben Mendelsohn – Scott’s self purported desire for success over accuracy results in a film that falls prey to the age old filmic flaw of depicting a largely non-white region with an exclusively white cast. In the end, everything about Exodus: Gods and Kings is either offensive or boring. It tarnishes the careers of an array of otherwise largely respectable actors and denies the existence of a race of people. In short, you shouldn’t see Ridley Scott’s latest blunder.
While there are plenty of moral objections to make to Scott’s film on their own, they often intersect with the quality of the film. The lead characters in the film are all popular white actors and actresses, but then those in the background often aren’t. It’s a move that starkly points out the myopic nature of the film. The obvious nature of Scott’s intentions with Exodus are never far from the screen with cinematography poorly stitched together revealing a depth of frame that reflects Scott’s casting decisions ranging from awkward, confusing, to racist.
Ridley Scott commented that those causing an uproar around the film – from those arguing that the film is whitewashed to the countries it depicts having banned it – should “get a life”. It’s an odd response from the director – considering the decision to make a film about a group of people should include a desire to actually listen to the voices of such a group – but it’s hardly surprising. Most of Scott’s defence and commentary about the film is reflected in the way in which he articulates his cinematic vision throughout it; poorly thought out, pieced together awkwardly, and far from lacking enough cogency to be given the time of day. Even beyond every moral criticism of the film, Exodus: Gods and Kings is neither interesting, original, beautiful or affecting. It is, however, one of the worst blockbusters of 2014 and definitely not worth anyones time.